Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

violent rebel, to the Mason. He laughed at me; and as ridicule kills everything, even the strongest of passions, Love, it soon annihilated my treason.

, “ You'd look a pretty guy, wouldn't you, now, after being a good Union woman all along, to go and turn Secesh at the last moment, and just, too, at the very time when their prospects, to say the least of it, look most allfired quisby.”

Thus the Mason; drawing from the what-you-may-call-it of English undefiled.

It struck me I would look something of a guy under those circumstances, and that perhaps I was in the first stage of being a guy now. I felt thoroughly ashamed of myself, and returned to my loyalty and Mrs. Ackley. “How does she know when they are going to fight?” “ The government gives her warning."

Funny, isn't it? I suppose she gets a note requesting the honor of her society, anywhere except in her own house, the next day, as the two armies are going to have a sociable on her grounds at that date.

I hope I have said nothing to offend Mrs. Ackley. I have told the tale as it was told to me, without extenuating anything, but I am sure without setting down aught in malice. If she was a rebel at heart, why, as there were eight millions of souls, not to mention bodies, who shared her sentimenta, she was certainly not alone in her disaffection. If she sought the protection of our government for motives of her own, and our government saw fit to extend it to her, surely it is no business of ours. Let him who is vithout the sin of wanting to save his money, cast the first green back. For myself, I am not prepared to say whether, under similar circumstances, and to preserve a fortune of three millions, I should not have done theexcessively disagreeable myself.

“Ilas this mare any speed ?” I inquired of the Mason, after we got on the home-stretch.

THE BLACKSMITH'S WIFE.

231

“You'd think so if you had seen her, the other day, coming up with our boys on the retreat from a place about seventy miles from here. The lady who rode her never dismounted once, but kept her on the keen run the whole time. She said she never could bear Hoods."

I thought I would put the mare through her paces, as we horse-erudite folks say, and the first thing the silly creature did was to lose a shoe. I insisted on having it put on at once, as the mare had been placed at my disposal in the kindest and most generous manner, and I was not going to allow any harm to come to her if I could help it.

We stopped at a blacksmith's shop by the side of the road, and showed him our passes before he would consent to shoe the mare. His wife, a brawny-looking woman, with eyes red from recent weeping, asked me if I would take a seat in the parlor until the horse was ready. I did 80, and before I had fairly entered the room she burst out crying afresh. I thought at once it was poverty, or illtreatment from her husband. If the first, I could alleviate it a little; and if the latter, I could give a few cheering words of sympathy and consolation. I think I have a particularly soothing manner both with the sick and heartsore, and so, winding my arms about her poor sunburnt neck, I coaxed her to tell me her griefs and let me grieve with her. I touched the right chord, evidently; for, pushing my hat off my forehead, she pressed her lips to it many times, and, in that caressing tone peculiar to Southern women, called me her “sweet, sweet honey”-her “honey, honey sweet.” Which was the adjective and which the noun I know not, nor do I care to kng w. I understood her, and she did me.

I soon learned the cause of her grief. They had found a rebel on the battle-field, who had been left for dead, but was not. They picked him up and cared for him. They gave notice to the authorities; but, in the great excite

232

THE DEAD SOLDIER-BOY.

ment of the moment, no attention was paid to them nor to the rebel. These people had tended him for eight days, and this morning he had died. I went in with her to see the body. I shall never forget it.

It was somebody's darling !-somebody's dear darling -some mother's pet—some pretty girl's sweetheartsome sister's “big brother”-a lovely soldier-boy, not nineteen years old; a tender plant, which had wound itself around this woman's heart in the short space of eight days. She did not even know his name, except that it was Charlie; she told me this as plainly as she could tell me anything through her choking tears.

Poor Charlie! I pressed my lips to your cold fingers, and uttered a prayer for the repose of your soul.

If Charlie's mother should read these lines, she may be happy in the thought that no angel with drooping wings could have tended her boy in his last sickness with more devotion and love than did that brawny Southern woman, with the very unsymmetrical waist.

War is a strong colorist for the moment, but by a gracious dispensation his tints fade quickly, die away, and are forgotten.

So it must be in Nashville, now no longer what it was when I was there—a city of soldiers. Soldiers everywhere --everywhere! In the streets, in the houses, in the hospitals late churches, in the hospitals late school-houses, in the hospital late City Hotel, on the roads, in the town, on the river, in the theatres—soldiers, soldiers, and yet again soldiers, and after that out of all whooping!

A man in citizen's dress was a rara avis, a lady in any kind of dress was a marvel. In every shop the repelling warning, “No Goods sold to Civilians,” told as plainly as words could speak that Nashville owed no allegiance save to the army. And yet these very shopkeepers, who sold

[blocks in formation]

but to soldiers, were often as bitter secessionists as could be found. I know this, for, striving to pick up a few ribbons and the like, to vary my very restricted wardrobe, I soon learned their sentiments; but, as they very justly remarked themselves, they were so completely awed by the presence of those soldiers that their own state of feeling was a matter of not the slightest moment.

I have said that I was restricted in the way of wardrobe, having left almost everything in that line in Louisville. I can laugh now at the straits I was put to, to vary my toilettes, but at the time I was really very much inconvenienced. I had in reality only two dresses of the modern school with me; one a pink moire antique, the other a white of the same character. They had both cost in Paris that figurative sum commonly known as “a pretty penny,” and were in fact silks of the first water. But I must say I agree with the logical Mrs. Malaprop in the observation that “ familiarity breeds despisery.” The hate I bear those two dresses knows no words. I was obliged to wear them constantly. First I would wear the pink, then the white, then the pink looped over the white, then the white looped over the pink, then the pink trimmed with white, then the white trimmed with pink; in fact, I was a woman in white, with a strong tendency to couleur de rose. I have had my revenge on them since, by suffering them to repose calmly in the bottom of my trunks. After Nashville's fitful fever, they sleep well!

I learned in Nashville that it was a matter of the greatest difficulty to visit rebel prisoners of war, which fact greatly enhanced a desire which I had long entertained to see some of the better class of the parties in arms against us. I was gratified in this, but after many struggles; and as the war is over now, I shall not mention in what town I made the visit. It was not in Nashville, but the recital comes in here as well as anywhere else.

a

234

Our first sympathies were enlisted by hearing that some rebel prisoners had been taken, very recently, who were in quite a starving condition.

"Oh, my dear child!" said Mère, "let's send the poor 'souls some oranges!"

"That would be substantial relief for starving men, certainly. Almost as good as the remedy Marie Antoinette offered the people when there was a famine in France."

"Who was Marie Antoinette, and what did she offer?" inquired the Mason.

By which it will be seen that the Mason's historical knowledge was rather limited. But never you mind that; he was a good Mason. This was quite enough for me. Besides, did he not know something which I never did and never shall know-that tiresome secret of the Masons? So, after all, he had the advantage of me.

"Marie Antoinette was Queen of France at one time, and the offer to which I allude was this: One day the hungry rabble came clamorously up to the gates of the Palace at Versailles, shrieking for bread. 'What do they want?' asked the Queen of the Prime Minister.

"Your Majesty,' he replied, 'they are without bread.' "Without bread!' she exclaimed, then, why, in Heaven's name, don't you give them pie-crust-(qu'on leur donne de la croute de pate.'-(Historical)."

The Mason laughed, but Mère said she didn't see anything funny in it.

Pie-crust, she observed, would have been a very good substitute, if they had only had enough of it.

Well, my opinion is," said the Mason, sagely, "that you had better not visit these rebels at all."

"And wherefore?" I asked.

[ocr errors]

ORANGES AND PIE-CRUST.

"Because, in the first place, you are a public character." "Well, what then?"

Well, then, being a public character, and going to

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »